Britain’s 3,000-mile canal network is made up of thousands of historic structures. From impressive flights of locks to soaring aqueducts, these engineering marvels are exciting focal points for canal boat holiday-makers today.
Aqueducts were originally invented by the Romans. But the idea of a ‘canal in the sky’ was initially ridiculed by the canal builders. They were concerned about the amount of masonry required to support the weight of the water above. However, the engineers found a way and dozens of canal aqueducts went on to be constructed across the canal network. They have survived to become some of the most iconic sights on our waterways.
To help plan your 2021 adventure afloat, we’ve listed the top nine aqueducts to glide across:
1. The Stream in the Sky in North Wales
Standing 33 metres high above the Dee Valley, the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales has UNESCO World Heritage Status. Designed by Thomas Telford, its 305-metre long cast iron trough in which narrowboats float, is supported by 19 enormous hollow pillars. Ox blood was added to the lime mortar used to bind the masonry together. It was believed the blood of a strong animal would help strengthen the structure. You can reach this aqueduct from our hire boat yards at Trevor, Chirk, Blackwater Meadow, Whitchurch, Wrenbury and Whixall.
2. Avoncliff Aqueduct in Somerset
Designed by canal engineer John Rennie, the beautiful Bath stone Avoncliff Aqueduct carries the Kennet & Avon Canal across the Avon Valley near Bath. It is over 100 metres long and 18 metres wide. You can reach this aqueduct on a canal boat holiday from our bases at Bath, Monkton Coombe, Bradford on Avon, Hilperton and Devizes.
3. Chirk Aqueduct on the Welsh border
Also part of the Llangollen Canal World Heritage site, the striking Chirk Aqueduct was completed in 1801. It was designed by William Jessop and Thomas Telford. It is 220 metres long and carries the Llangollen Canal 21 metres high above the River Ceiriog, using 10 circular masonry arches. You can easily reach the Chirk Aqueduct from our bases at Trevor, Chirk, Blackwater Meadow, Whitchurch, Wrenbury and Whixall.
4. The Iron Trunk Aqueduct in Buckinghamshire
This magnificent engineering structure was the world’s first wide canal cast iron trough aqueduct. It takes the Grand Union Canal 12 metres high across the River Great Ouse, close to the village of Cosgrove. It was built in 1811 by canal engineer Benjamin Beavan, and is made up of two cast iron trough spans, with a single masonry pier. Our nearest narrowboat hire base is a five hour cruise away at Gayton.
5. Dundas Aqueduct in Somerset
Another magnificent Bath stone aqueduct designed by John Rennie, this structure on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Bath was completed in 1810. It’s designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument and connects the Kennet & Avon Canal to the Somerset Coal Canal. You can easily be reach Dundas Aqueduct on a canal boat holiday from our bases at Bath, Monkton Coombe, Bradford on Avon, Hilperton and Devizes.
6. Edstone Aqueduct in Warwickshire
Carrying the Stratford Canal across three railway tracks, a minor road, a stream and a field, this 146 metre long structure is the longest cast iron aqueduct in England. Completed in 1816, it was amongst the earliest prefabricated structures, made up of 35 separate sections bolted together. Our nearest canal boat hire base is just under an hour away at Wootton Wawen.
7. The Lune Aqueduct in Lancashire
This Grade I listed iconic structure carries the Lancaster Canal 16 metres high above the River Lune. It was designed by John Rennie and has five 21 metre high semi-circular arches. The nearest Drifters’ base is a week’s cruise away at Acton Bridge on the River Weaver.
8. Nantwich Aqueduct in Cheshire
The Nantwich Aqueduct offers canal boat holiday-makers panoramic views across the historic market town of Nantwich. This Grade II* listed historic structure carries the Shropshire Union Canal over the A534 Chester Road. It was designed by the famous canal engineer Thomas Telford and completed 1826. You can reach Nantwich Aqueduct in just two hours from our base at Bunbury.
9. Barton Swing Aqueduct in Greater Manchester
This Grade II* listed aqueduct carries the Bridgewater Canal across the Manchester Ship Canal. It opened in 1893 and was the first and only swing aqueduct in the world. Weighing 1,450 tonnes, the 100-metre long aqueduct swings open, full of water, to allow the passage of ships along the Manchester Ship Canal. Our nearest base is a nine-hour cruise away at Acton Bridge.